Equality campaigners in Australia are at this very moment celebrating after crossing light symbols depicting women instead of men were recently introduced in Melbourne. As well as being seen as another positive step towards true gender equality, they have also attracted derision from those proclaiming the rise of a global nanny state (though if the alternative is Donald Trump then I’ll take a huge dollop of nanny state please).
I for one think the lights are a good thing, even if they look like a woman doing a spot of mam dancing at a wedding and could possibly be improved by the addition of a handbag in the middle of the floor.
Well it turns out Australia isn’t the only country to experiment with their traffic lights, while others have fascinating designs that reveal a lot about the psyche of their respected populous.
Green or Blue – Japan
Let us start in Japan. We all know the Japanese are, let’s say, out there when it comes to….well everything. So it’s no surprise that their traffic lights are also wildly different than our own. So much so that their interpretation of green is more like our interpretation of blue. They also remind me of the kind of lights you’d expect to see at a mobile disco, ran by a bloke called Kevin. One area of Japan that has experimented with the art form is the Kanagawa Prefecture, which, in 2014, installed a traffic light depicting manga icon Astro Boy. Pretty cool.
Walk, Don’t Walk – New York
Once one of the iconic sights of New York, The Walk/Don’t Walk sign has since been replaced by icons that better serve its ethnically diverse population. The red hand symbol that has replaced ‘Don’t Walk’ has of course left itself open to artistic interpretation.
Gay Rights Traffic Lights – Germany
While Melbourne may be patting itself on the back for its new traffic lights, parts of Germany can claim to have been there, done that. In fact places like Munich, Berlin and Hamburg have gone further and used their traffic lights to promote gay rights.
Ampelmann – Germany
Germany has always been famed for its traffic lights, with its iconic Ampelmann figure carving out his own place in the fabric of German life. Not much has survived from the former East Germany, apart from the odd Trabant and Checkpoint Charlie, and, ok, bits of a wall. However, this peculiar chap has managed to find his way into the hearts of the German public, so much so that a number of Ampelmann shops have sprung up across the country selling everything from Ampelmann keyrings to Ampelmann high vis jackets, and even Ampelmann condoms for people who really love Ampelmann.
Carmen Rupe lights up the street – New Zealand
Traffic lights have also been used on a few occasions to worship local heroes such as these ones on Cuba Street, Wellington, New Zealand, which feature the fabulous figure of celebrated Māori drag performer Carmen Rupe, who has also gone down in local folklore for her work as an anti-discrimination activist, HIV/AIDS activist, former Wellington mayoral candidate and, ahem, brothel keeper. Would make a fascinating film I’m sure.
People Trafficking in Prague – Czech Republic
So you thought that traffic lights were just used on roads did you? Well this should surprise you. There is one back lane in Prague that is so narrow that a traffic light has been installed to allow people to pass each other without the need for lubrication. This follows reports that a rotund German tourist once got wedged in there and had to be freed with the use of soap. Lovely way to spend an afternoon.
Chris Knox (aka the Lookers Blogger) brings you regular blogs on an array of diverse subjects; from motoring industry news and reviews to the latest goings on at Lookers Towers, as well as what gets him riled up on the road. Follow him by signing up here.